Doctor Who

Doctor Who

or: My Descent into Fandom

“Wait, the first episode is about shop-window dummies coming to life and terrorizing London? Okay, I’ll watch that.”

And that, dear friends, was the beginning of the end.

For most of my life I’ve avoided two things: being a “fan” of anything, and Doctor Who.

(Okay and a bunch of other things as well like spiders and getting murdered, but those are outside the scope of this essay. Sheesh.)

I should say that while I avoid being a “fan” of stuff that doesn’t mean I don’t like stuff. I like lots of stuff! But I don’t really like talking about the things I like with other people who like them.

(Says the guy who writes a bunch of articles on a site called Favorite Thing Ever. Okay, I see your point. Look, why are you arguing with me?)

I’m not sure why I have this aversion. Maybe it’s a hipster thing; if I can believe that I’m the only one that likes something it’s cooler than if I’m just following the pack. Maybe it’s a learned response, as my love for Star Wars, Star Trek, Monty Python and They Might Be Giants didn’t make me all that many friends back in my school days.

Whatever the reason, I have avoided fandom my entire life. I might enjoy the Star Wars movies, but I’m not a Star Wars fan. I like watching Star Trek as much as the next guy, but I’m not a Trekkie.

I avoided Doctor Who because whenever I bumped into it it was the old 70’s version that was on PBS every now and again. You know what I’m talking about. Terrible BBC “special” effects happening on terrible BBC sets. I was dimly aware that Doctor Who had different people playing the main role from time to time, and he had a time machine. But I had never sat through an entire episode to find out any more than that.

And then, about a year ago, all that changed. People have been assuring me that I would like the new Doctor Who since…well, since there was a new Doctor Who. But faint memories of a long scarf always stopped me from verifying their claims.

Until one Saturday, almost exactly a year ago. I decided to see what all the fuss was about, and was in the right sort of mood to find killer mannequins funny.

I watched the first episode. And the next. And a couple more. And then an episode or two every day. My friends who had been trying to convince me to give it a shot were quite subdued in their smug gloating; in fact most of what they said was “which episode are you on? Awesome! Didn’t you love how…” or “Oh man, you’re getting close to where…”. And they were surprisingly good about avoiding all forms of spoilers.

The following post summarizes my experince perfectly:

Looks about right.
Looks about right.

A few months after my daughter was born I sat, holding her close as I watched the last three episodes of season 9 and cried like…well, like a baby. If you’ve seen those episodes you know what I mean.

And somewhere along the line I realized I was a full-fledged fan of the show. And I’m not even sorry. I started following Doctor Who-themed Tumblr accounts. I bought two new polo shirts for work: one with a Dalek, one with the Tardis. I’ve got a bunch of Funko Pop figures from the Doctor Who line. I will talk to anyone anywhere about the relative merits of the four modern doctors.

Doctor Who is all that is best in British Television: dramatic, funny, densely packed, unafraid to look back to its long past for inspiration and yet still free to look forward to better and more interesting things.

And most of all it has the Doctor himself. The reason I love the Doctor’s character, this year more than ever, is because he’s an eternal optimist. He wanders, he explores. He meets new and weird things and instead of shouting at them or trying to seduce them like some other characters, he just delights in their existence. Right up until they try to kill him. But at least he tries the happy way first.

And that’s someone I can get behind. Life is weird, life is scary, but that doesn’t mean we should lose our sense of wonder.

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